Marry Me Later - Delaying Marriage and Pregnancy in India

Adolescents | Mar, 2014

Almost 50% of India’s girls are married before they turn 18 and 20% are married before 15 years of age. If present trends continue, 28 million girls born between 2005 and 2010 will become child brides by 2030. Dasra’s report Marry Me Later addresses the harmful traditional practice that denies children, particularly girls, the basic right to a healthy life, protection from abuse and exploitation, and access to equal opportunities for development.

22% of Indian girls have already given birth by age 18. Girls under 15 are five times more likely to die during childbirth than women in their early 20s. Infants of adolescent mothers are 50% more likely to die during birth or as newborns. For those aged 15-19, the lifetime opportunity cost of adolescent pregnancy will total 12% of India's annual GDP. Child brides are twice as likely to report being beaten and thrice as likely to report being subjected to forced sex. They lack agency due to loss of peer networks and discontinued education.

In Marry Me Later, Dasra recommends a few key steps to address child marriage in India. It identifies how alternate life options for girls, such as education and post-education employment opportunities, help postpone marriage. It is also critical to engage decision makers who significantly influence a girl's life choices, namely fathers and brothers, older women in the family, and religious and community leaders. Another recommendation is to strengthen and promote birth and marriage registration, because birth registration is a proof of age and so plays a significant role in preventing child marriage, while ensuring the girl and her family can access numerous welfare schemes.

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